Discusses His Bid for the Reform Party Presidential Nomination (Interview)

Date: Oct. 24, 1999
Location: Meet the Press
Issues: Women Abortion


MR. RUSSERT: But first, some news. Tomorrow, as expected, Pat Buchanan will announce that he is going to pursue the Reform Party nomination for president. But this morning, in an exclusive interview, businessman Donald Trump tells MEET THE PRESS that tomorrow he, Trump, is also leaving the Republican Party to join the Reform Party. He is filing this form with the New York Board of Elections. I interviewed Mr. Trump at our NBC Studios in New York on Thursday.

Donald Trump, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: You are a registered Republican.

MR. TRUMP: Correct.

MR. RUSSERT: There is a form that is being filed Monday, tomorrow, with the Board of Elections, which says what?

MR. TRUMP: Well, it says that I am joining, as of Monday, the Reform Party, which in New York is the independence party. And I look forward to doing so.

MR. RUSSERT: Why are you joining the Reform Party?

MR. TRUMP: Well, for one thing, I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy right. I mean, just what's going on is just nuts. And I'm seeing the Democrats as far too—I mean, Bradley and Gore are so liberal, it's just too liberal for me. And I really think they've hit a chord, they've hit a very good chord, and I guess I'm very popular in that party, and it certainly looks that way.

MR. RUSSERT: This will be read as a further indication that you are seriously thinking about running for president on the Reform Party.

MR. TRUMP: Well, it may very well be.

MR. RUSSERT: Should it be?

MR. TRUMP: I think so. Yes. I absolutely think so.

MR. RUSSERT: There have been some polls taken recently by Newsweek and ABC News. Let me put those on the board. And they say that 77 percent told ABC News, 73 percent told Newsweek, they would not vote for Donald Trump under any circumstances. That's a lot of people.

MR. TRUMP: Well, you know, it's interesting, because on ABC I'm their star and on Newsweek they put me on their cover last week. And, you know, I saw some poll where I guess—hey, polls are very interesting. I could put out a poll—"Would you vote for the brilliant entrepreneur Donald Trump?"—and everyone's going to say yes. Or I could put a poll—"Would you vote for this terrible human being named Donald Trump?"—and they're going to say no.

So, you know, polls are sort of strange. The Gallup poll recently came out and it said I'm the number one candidate of any independent, that I do better against Bush and Gore than any other Independent. You saw that result, also. I've had some great polls. I mean, I always get criticized for saying the National Enquirer had a poll that I win the election. And I don't know if that's true...

MR. RUSSERT: But that wasn't scientific. It was only 100 people from the street.

MR. TRUMP: I don't know if it was only 100. You know what? They got the highest marks on the O.J. Simpson coverage and lots of other coverage. So you can say what they want.

MR. RUSSERT: From some...

MR. TRUMP: So the point is, they did a poll and I win the election, according to that poll.

MR. RUSSERT: But if three-fourths of the American people three months from now are saying that they won't vote for you under any circumstances, would you then still run?

MR. TRUMP: Well, I would only do this if I felt I could win the election.

MR. RUSSERT: Win the election?

MR. TRUMP: A lot of people say they're not going to vote. And if you look at those polls—"Because he's not going to run. There's no way that he's going to run. Why would he run? He gives up a lot by running." And I do. I'm the biggest developer by far in New York. I am the most successful developer in New York. And New York is the hottest city in the world. So, you know, people are saying, "Why would he do this? Why would he run?" But it's a very great possibility that I will run. And I think those polls will change very rapidly if I say I'd actually run.

MR. RUSSERT: Many people who have been watching you, who know you, who like you, say this is all just a public relations stunt. I went back to consult the bible, your book...

MR. TRUMP: I haven't heard this. Is that true?

MR. RUSSERT: Your book, and let me read what you wrote. "You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don't know much about it, it's not going to be worth much. You need to generate interest and you need to create excitement. The point is that if you're a little different or a little outrageous or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you."

MR. TRUMP: Well, I think that's true. And I think it's certainly been true in my case because there certainly has been a lot written. I mean, when they hand me the cover of Newsweek and—they said, "Mr. Trump, you're on the cover of Newsweek." And I said, you know, "What building did I build?" I didn't even know why I was on the cover. But I'm on the cover last week. And it is sort of amazing, as you have already said, what's happened. I mean, there has been a lot of hoopla and a lot of stir. But it's something I'm very, very serious about.

MR. RUSSERT: The Daily News had this to say. And let me put it on the board. "Trump's decision to spend up to three months weighing a candidacy has the potential to generate tens of millions of dollars in free publicity for his empire of buildings, hotels, and casinos."

MR. TRUMP: Probably true. Probably true.

MR. RUSSERT: Is that what you're really after?

MR. TRUMP: No. I am really looking at this very seriously. And I think if I do it—and I wouldn't do it unless I thought I could win. I'm not looking to get 21 percent or 19 percent or 15 percent and they say, "Oh, what a great job, Donald. That's unbelievable. You got more than anybody else ever." I'm—as an Independent—I'm really only going to do this, Tim, if I can win. Meaning win. The big one. Not the Reform Party against a Pat Buchanan, who I guess pretty soon is going to be joining, because he got thrown out of the Republican Party.

MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow Pat Buchanan is announcing that he will be a candidate for the presidency on the Reform Party.

MR. TRUMP: I just think it's ridiculous. I mean, he wrote a book...


MR. TRUMP: Because—look, he's a Hitler lover. I guess he's an anti-Semite. He doesn't like the blacks, he doesn't like the gays. It's just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy. And maybe he'll get 4 or 5 percent of the vote and it'll be a really staunch right wacko vote. I'm not even sure if it's right. It's just a wacko vote. And I just can't imagine that anybody can take him seriously.

MR. RUSSERT: When will you decide whether or not you truly can win and, therefore, decide to run?

MR. TRUMP: I think probably by January, February, March at the latest I'll make a decision.

MR. RUSSERT: Any time anyone runs for president, they're scrutinized. And they look into people's background...

MR. TRUMP: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...the so-called character issue.

MR. TRUMP: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: This is what you told CNBC last year which raised a lot of eyebrows and I'll put it on the screen: "Can you imagine how controversial I'd be? You think about [Clintonë with the women. How about me with the women? Can you imagine?"

MR. TRUMP: Well, I mean, I think there is a certain controversy to me. And I am single. And I do go out with women. And I do respect and adore women. And some women love me and probably some women don't. But I am certainly controversial. But I also am a great businessman. I'd make the greatest treaties that this country has seen in a long time. Other countries wouldn't be ripping us off like they're doing, when you look at what Japan has been doing to us for so many years and decades. I mean, they wouldn't be ripping us like they are, and things would happen.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say that if the president had had a fling with a supermodel rather than Monica, he'd be a hero.

MR. TRUMP: But I didn't say that. I said there are those that say that, "If he had a fling with a supermodel, he would be everyone's hero." I didn't say that I said it.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it?

MR. TRUMP: It's possible.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what you said about women in your book and give you a chance to respond.

MR. TRUMP: All right.

MR. RUSSERT: This is helpful: "Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. ...I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye—or perhaps another body part."

MR. TRUMP: Well, you know that. I mean, you're married to an incredible woman. And I'm sure she manipulates you beautifully.

MR. RUSSERT: When women see or hear that on the screen, however, don't they say...

MR. TRUMP: I think they respect it.

MR. RUSSERT: ..."Donald Trump, isn't that a little bit over the line?"

MR. TRUMP: I'm saying women may be beyond us, you and I. I mean, they're smart, they're cunning.

MR. RUSSERT: They're killers.

MR. TRUMP: They're killers in many respects.

MR. RUSSERT: That's what you said.

MR. TRUMP: Absolutely. I'm not saying all, but I'm saying in many respects. And I've seen women that are so tough they make us wince.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me move on to some issues...

MR. TRUMP: You haven't met any of those women?

MR. RUSSERT: But first—when I run for president, I'll answer all your questions.


MR. RUSSERT: One of your former wives—Marla—had this to say and let me put it on the screen, give you a chance to respond: "If [Trumpë is really serious about being president and runs in the general election next year, I will not be silent. I will feel it is my duty as an American citizen to tell the people what he's really like. But I can't image they would really elect him, would they?... His drug is attention."

MR. TRUMP: Well, I mean, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I feel badly for Marla. I thought we were getting along OK. But, you know, when you leave someone that sort of is the reaction. I think she'll change. We have a great daughter. I have four great kids. I'm a very good father by any standard. And, you know, I felt badly that she'd say some negative things, but it put her back into the limelight for another day. And maybe she's happy with that. I don't know. I'm very surprised that she said anything negative.

MR. RUSSERT: When people look at the presidency, they want to think of traditional family values. Do you think they're ready to elect a twice-divorced man?

MR. TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I mean, certainly these are the things I'll be looking at. I think the answer is yes. And as you say, you know, you can cite all sorts of polls, but you also know the polls that say I'd do very well if I ran in the election. We'll see what happens. I mean, if I think that that's going to be a great impediment, I'm not going to bother. Again, I don't want to end up the day after the election, back in my office in Trump Tower. It's a beautiful office. It's a great place to be. But either I run and win or I just don't want to run at all. So if that's going to be an impediment, I wouldn't bother.

MR. RUSSERT: You have a new book coming out, "The America We Deserve"...

MR. TRUMP: Correct.

MR. RUSSERT: ...which I've had a chance to have some excerpts given to me by your office. Let me talk about some of the issues. One is North Korea. And you say that you, as president, would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's nuclear capability.

MR. TRUMP: First, I'd negotiate. I would negotiate like crazy. And I'd make sure that we tried to get the best deal possible. Look, Tim, if a man walks up to you on a street in Washington—because this doesn't happen, of course, in New York. But if a man walks up and puts a gun to your head and says, "Give me your money," wouldn't you rather know where he's coming from before he had the gun in his hand? And these people in three or four years are going to be having nuclear weapons. They're going to have those weapons pointed all over the world and specifically at the United States.

And wouldn't you be better off solving this really potentially, unbelievable—and the biggest problem. I mean, we can talk about the economy, we can talk about Social Security. The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation. And we have a country out there, North Korea, which is sort of wacko, which is not a bunch of dummies. And they are going out and they are developing nuclear weapons. And they're not doing it because they're having fun doing it. They're doing it for a reason. And wouldn't it be good to sit down and really negotiate something and ideally negotiate. Now, if that negotiation doesn't work, you'd better solve the problem now than solve it later, Tim. And you know it and every politician knows it, and nobody wants to talk about it.

Jimmy Carter, who I really like, he went over there. It was so soft. These people are laughing at us.

MR. RUSSERT: The former general of the Air Force, Meryl McPeek, the former secretary of defense, Les Aspin, said you could not launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea because the nuclear fallout could be devastating to the Asian peninsula.

MR. TRUMP: I'm not talking about—I'm not talking about us using nuclear weapons. I'm saying that they have areas where they're developing missiles.

MR. RUSSERT: No, but taking out their nuclear potential...

MR. TRUMP: Do you know that this country, Tim...

MR. RUSSERT: ...would create a fallout.

MR. TRUMP: Tim, do you know that this country went out and gave them nuclear reactors, free fuel for 10 years? We—we virtually tried to bribe them into stopping, and they're continuing to do what they're doing and they're laughing at us. They think we're a bunch of dummies. I'm saying that we have to do something to stop. Ideally...

MR. RUSSERT: But if the military told you, "Mr. Trump, we can't do this..."

MR. TRUMP: You give me two names—you're giving me two names. I don't know. Do you want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington and everyone of our—is that when you want to do it, or do you want to do something now? You'd better do it now. And if they think you're serious—I deal with lots of people—if they think you're serious, they'll negotiate and it'll never come to that.

MR. RUSSERT: Tax cuts: The Reform Party platform says no tax cuts, no tax cuts and we pay off—till we pay off the entire debt. Donald Trump says, cut taxes.

MR. TRUMP: I think you can do a combination of both. I think if we go back and negotiate with Japan and Germany and lots of countries, France, that are just ripping us—Saudi Arabia—you look at these deficits that are just ripping us big league, I think you can do a combination of tax cuts and pay off the national debt. I mean, this country loses trillions of dollars in—in bad deals that we make with cou—really, countries like Japan with the cars. You try and sell an American car in Japan. By the time it gets off the boat—the boat is sitting there 40 weeks as they're trying to get the first car off the boat. I mean, they're just ripping us, and they're ripping us big league.

MR. RUSSERT: How big of a tax cut?

MR. TRUMP: A substantial tax cut in line with the top Republican numbers.

MR. RUSSERT: $ 800 billion?

MR. TRUMP: Yes. In line with the top Republican numbers, which aren't going to happen. But they'd happen if I was involved.

MR. RUSSERT: People will say to Donald Trump, "Who are you to tell us how to run a government, to balance a budget? Four of your companies went bankrupt, Mr. Trump."

MR. TRUMP: You know what? You know what? Absolutely. And I have—of the 71 companies I have—and by the way, those four that I threw into a chapter—and they were just four—not me, personally—these were just four out of many, many companies in very bad times caused by the Bill Bradleys of the world who created a ridiculous tax structure for the country in order to save money—those four companies did very, very well. In other words, I use the system as—to my advantage and there's nothing wrong with that.

MR. RUSSERT: Social Security: The Reform Party platform says privatize Social Security. Donald Trump says that's a dumb idea.

MR. TRUMP: I don't like the idea of privatizing Social Security. I think it's certainly something that could be looked at. I think the Social Security system is in very serious trouble. Obviously, it's always going to be backed by the country, but I think it's in very serious trouble. I would look at privatization. I don't know that that's the answer.

MR. RUSSERT: But you'd open to it?

MR. TRUMP: I'm open to it, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Immigration: The Reform Party platform says, "Let's hold back on immigration. Let's bring the numbers down." Donald Trump says?

MR. TRUMP: I agree. I agree. I think that too many people are flowing into the country. We have to take care of our own first. We must take care of our own. I agree with that 100 percent.

MR. RUSSERT: Trade: NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement?

MR. TRUMP: Bad. Really bad. I hate it. I never liked it. And the only reason we're doing all right is that the economy is OK right now. If the economy goes down the toilet, the NAFTA will be a disaster for this country. And there's a real chance that that can happen.

MR. RUSSERT: Most favored nation trade status for China. Repeal it?

MR. TRUMP: I would say generally speaking repeal it. I'm not happy with what's going on. You talk about nuclear powers. I mean, they're testing weapons all the time. China—to me, that says bigger problem. I mean, they're going wild with nuclear weapons and we have to have it stopped.

MR. RUSSERT: You say that we may be headed for a crash. What do you base that on?

MR. TRUMP: Well, all you can base it on is your instinct. And I hope it's not true. And I'm not sure that it will be true. It's always ups and downs no matter how you do. We're certainly in a little bit of a down period right now, and we may go further down. I hope that's not true. I don't think it will be true. It won't be true if I'm in there. But there is a possibility for some very tough times ahead from an economic standpoint. And if that happens, financially, if that happens with the country, where we go into a recession or beyond that, like we had in 1990 and '91, which was largely caused by politicians—if that should happen, Tim, we have some real problems. We're going to have a very, very depressed place.

MR. RUSSERT: How long do you think we have before we might enter a recession?

MR. TRUMP: I think that if things aren't properly done, 12 to 14 months. I think we could enter into—hey, look, I don't know what you call it right now. If you look at the New York Stock Exchange, you know, General Electric and—your company—and lots of huge companies are going up. But 90 percent of the companies go way down, and they are way down. They're at all-time lows. So I don't know what you call it. But I think times really aren't as good as people think right now. And times could be heading bad. I hope that's not true.

MR. RUSSERT: What would you do right now to stop it?

MR. TRUMP: Well, for one thing, I think that the choice of people—and in all fairness to Clinton, between Rubin and Greenspan, he's made two really good—these were his two best appointments, in my opinion. But the choice of people and the choice of leadership financially speaking—hey, who knows better about hard times than me? I had a company. It was doing well. I had tremendous debt, like this country. And in 1990, the whole country—it just went very, very bad. Friends of mine went bankrupt, they went out of business, never to be heard from again. I went out and my company is now much bigger, much stronger, much more powerful than it ever was before. So, I mean, I understand this stuff. I understand good times and I understand bad times. I mean, why, is a politician going to do a better job than I am?

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about some social issues. Do you think gays should be allowed to be married?

MR. TRUMP: It's something I haven't given lots of thought to. I live in New York City. There's a tremendous movement on to have and allow gay marriage. It's just something that is too premature for me to comment on.

MR. RUSSERT: How about gays serving in the military?

MR. TRUMP: It would not disturb me. Again, I'd want to talk to lots of experts within the military. But it's not something that would disturb me. I mean, hey, I lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa, perhaps. But it's not something that would disturb me.

MR. RUSSERT: Did you serve in the military?

MR. TRUMP: I did not.

MR. RUSSERT: What reason?

MR. TRUMP: Well, I got very lucky. We had lottery numbers. And I guess this was my biggest factor of luck in my life, because during the Vietnam War, I had a very, very high—my date, which was June 14th, was a very high date in the lottery, so I never got drafted, so I was very lucky.

MR. RUSSERT: Partial birth abortion, the eliminating of abortion in the third trimester: big issue in Washington. Would President Trump ban partial birth abortion?

MR. TRUMP: Well, look, I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still—I just believe in choice. And, again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. And, you know, I was raised in New York, and grew up and work and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly for choice and, yet, I hate the concept of abortion.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would not ban it?


MR. RUSSERT: Or ban partial birth abortion?

MR. TRUMP: No. I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it.

MR. RUSSERT: Like anyone in public life, there have—things been written and said about you which have been extremely critical. In fact, you've written books very favorable about yourself; severable books have been written
unfavorable about you. I want to give you a chance to respond to one charge, in particular.

MR. TRUMP: All right.

MR. RUSSERT: And this was a fellow named John O'Donnell who worked with you. And this is what he said.

MR. TRUMP: By the way, he worked with me. I hardly even know the guy. He did work with me, but I hardly even know them. And he wrote a book and it's ridiculous. But anyway, go ahead.

MR. RUSSERT: He says that—and he quotes you as saying: "I've got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else... Besides that, I've got to tell you something else, I think the guy is lazy"—referring to a black gentleman.

"It's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It's not anything they can control... If anybody ever heard me say that, I'd be in a lot of trouble. But I have to tell you, that's the way I feel."

MR. TRUMP: I never said it. I don't even know...

MR. RUSSERT: Donald Trump...

MR. TRUMP: I hardly know this guy. He was running one of my casinos for a short period of time. He was fired—we fired him because he wasn't doing a very good job. He wrote this nasty book. He made up stuff. This is like Jon Lovitz on "Saturday Night Live," the liar. "I went to Harvard. Yeah, I went to Harvard." This guy, I hardly know him. He made up this quote. I've heard the quote before, and it's nonsense.

MR. RUSSERT: You've never said anything like that?

MR. TRUMP: I've never said anything like it, ever.

MR. RUSSERT: Another book written suggested that because you are in the construction business, because you're in the casino business, you've had relations with members of organized crime.

MR. TRUMP: False. I mean—you know, the funny thing about the casino business, in particular in Atlantic City, as an example, you have to go through a very brilliant casino control system. Every check you write, every deal you make, even outside of Atlantic City. I'm talking if I build a building in New York I send in papers as to who's building it, who's the concrete people, etc., etc. Everything I do is under scrutiny. And one of the things different, I think, about me is that my life has been, Tim, a very, very open book. More so than virtually any politician that you interview on Sundays.

MR. RUSSERT: But you've never had to meet with, to do business with any organized figure in order to build buildings or do...

MR. TRUMP: I never have had to, and, to be honest with you, being a celebrity at a very high level is a good thing. Because they sort of—and they're—I'm not saying the mob doesn't exist. But they want to keep it low. They want to really keep it low. The last thing they want to do is meet with Donald Trump and have 500 paparazzi taking pictures. The answer is no. And I think, in that way—and I must tell you, I think, in that way, celebrity has been a positive for me.

MR. RUSSERT: What do you think the most important issue facing our country is?

MR. TRUMP: Well, I happen to think—as I said before, I really think that the world is becoming an unbelievable part of nuclear weapons. You look at India, you look at Pakistan, you look at North Korea, China. The world is becoming a very, very dangerous place. My uncle, who was a great professor at MIT—he passed away, Dr. John Trump—he said that some day you'll be able to have a suitcase, walk into the middle of Manhattan and the island is gone for 200 miles around. And you know what? That was 20 years ago he told me that and he's not so far wrong. We have to control the nuclear problem or you and me and everybody else—we're not going to be around here to be talking about, "Gee whiz, the economy's not so great."

MR. RUSSERT: Donald Trump, we thank you for joining us. And if you, in fact, announce for president, we hope you'll come back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. TRUMP: Thank you very much.

MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, after five controversial years as independent counsel, Kenneth Starr has resigned. How will he be remembered? How should he be remembered? We'll ask him. And Wednesday, Elizabeth Dole ended her presidential bid. She first discussed the possibility of a woman president and the gender gap right here on MEET THE PRESS 16 years ago. Our MEET THE PRESS Minute coming up. (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: Coming up, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr after this very brief station break. (Announcements)

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